A Better OS, a Better Keyboard

If you’ve used a competitive OS to Windows Phone 7 that features an on-screen keyboard (opens in new tab) (notably Android and iOS) you will surely agree with me when I say that the keyboard present on our WP7 devices blows everything else out the water. Sure, it’s not perfect, but it’s close.

Microsoft Research has published an article that provides a fantastic insight into the keyboard and how it has been developed to adapt to users with how the habit of typing isn’t entirely accurate (for some key presses we may place our finger on the top-right of a key almost touching a neigh-borough key). Read on after the break.

Eric Badger, developer lead, went on to say:

That was our starting premise, we wanted to have the best text-input solution in the world. When it comes to digital communication, the task of getting an idea from your head to the keyboard is really important.

The collaborated team used a data collection tool (seen above), which was later turned into a game called Text Text Revolution! (by Dmitry Rudchenko, developer on the team) and provided users a fantastic way to grow accustomed to their Windows Phone devices. The tool/game, since its launch, has collected more than 20 million touch points for training.

The keyboard in WP7 dramatically alters the virtual size of the likely next later by combining statistical models of language patterns and touch points, which makes the target area larger. This change in the size of each “button” isn’t displayed visually (or you’d have the keyboard resizing everywhere) and is completely backend. The software analyses what users are typing, calculates which letter is most likely to be typed next, and enlarges the virtual key area. Thus pressing “T” will result in T. Not Y or R.

For future releases, the blog covered plans for the keyboard to take into account the speed at which a user is typing, which sounds really impressive and is a fantastic step in the right direction to further advance the WP7 OS in user-friendliness. Do you enjoy using the keyboard, and do you prefer it to other OSs?

Source: Microsoft Research (opens in new tab)

Rich Edmonds
Senior Editor, PC Build

Rich Edmonds is Senior Editor of PC hardware at Windows Central, covering everything related to PC components and NAS. He's been involved in technology for more than a decade and knows a thing or two about the magic inside a PC chassis. You can follow him over on Twitter at @RichEdmonds.

  • I have only used Blackberry and Windows Mobile, and my WM phones have all had slide-out landscape quertys. I MUCH prefer a hardware keyboard, and landscape is my mode of choice. The on screen keyboard is nice for those very short messages where I may not want to take the effort of sliding out the keyboard, but I generally use the hardware.
  • The onscreen keyboard is unbelievably good. Until WP7 I was firmly convinced that I would never leave a portrait style hardware keyboard (think Palm). I still believe that a hardware keyboard is a necessity but WP7 has shifted the balance in terms of day-to-day usage in favor of the work of genius that is the WP7 virtual keyboard.
  • Yeah wp7 keyboard is tons better then anything I've used. (wm 6.5, ios, bb os, andriod)
  • "you will surely agree with me when I say that the keyboard present on our WP7 devices blows everything else out the water. Sure, it’s not perfect, but it’s close."Uh NO.Its just barely OK. Its accurate for sure but its only good when compared to stock android and stock iOS keyboards.Sense keyboard is better, swype is MUCH better. Pretty much any keyboard that allows you to hold for a secondary key is better. Having to switch to a diff layout to type numbers is silly and unintuitive, the way sense and swype handle this is lightyears ahead.But again for a stock keyboard its solid.
  • Sense keyboard is ridiculously inaccurate. Was the only part I disliked about my HTC Hero.
  • It is on the Hero but thats also one of the oldest and slowest android phones on the planet. Dont make much sense to compare current gen to 3 generations ago now does it? Try the sense keyboard on the big EVO screen for example and you wont be gushing over WP7 keyboard for long.Better yet grab a galaxy S phone and use swype.I love my WP7 phone but these types of ignorant fanservice articles dont help anyone and make us look like a bunch of stupid fanboys.To say that the featureless plain keyboard in wp7 is the best is just silly. It is accurate but so are most current gen androids and the iphone.Maybe if this where 2 years ago with the state of android phones then the claim could be made but try using the current gen and you will quickly find the claim is bogus.
  • To be honest, I can't stand Swype on my Captivate. There's been similar keyboards since Palm OS, and even with the sensitivity of capacitive screens I've always preferred actually tapping my keys versus sliding. "best stock keyboard" may be a fairer assessment, but of everything I've used, stock or not, I find it to be the best soft keyboard for me. I know others who prefer to tap as well. Of course, to each their own.
  • "Pretty much any keyboard that allows you to hold for a secondary key is better."Although I agree it is a bit annoying to have to switch layouts to type numbers, a few dozen assorted characters seem to be readily available on my stock WP7 keyboard via holding.From my experience, the WP7 keyboard is light years beyond what WinMo had, including the keyboard that came with my device. And I never thought it would happen, but I actually now prefer using the WP7 portrait keyboard. My only real gripe: "fir" instead of "for".
  • Not sure what you are talking about but on the stock wp7 keyboard there are no characters available vis holding.
  • You do realize that you can tap and drag to get a number, right? You tap the numbers key in the bottom left and then drag to the number you want to select that number. It's one fluid motion. In the same way, you can tap the shift key and drag to the letter you want to capitalize.
  • oh snap, that's awesome. i never knew about that.
  • I guess you didn't read any of the replies, you don't have to hold the button, simply slide from the function button (&123) the the button you want. It will allow you to type a number, character etc, then it auto reverts to the letter set. How hard is that?Tried swype for a while, but its honestly an acquired taste and really isn't any faster. And the sense keyboard has always been horrible for autocorrect for me.On android I prefer the gingerbread keyboard purchased in the market that allows you to alter the size of the keys and spaces in between. Really nice on my DS7.
  • Illuminating article. I'm not a WP7 owner yet, but I am hoping to be one soon. The main feature that is luring me is the keyboard. I've tried it out on a couple different models at the at&t store and the WP7 keyboard is head and shoulders above every other one.
  • The WP7 keyboard is nice but old-fashioned. SWYPE is so much better and faster.What a pain to be obliged to type the letters one by one.After WM6.5 with SWYPE I could not imagine that I would have to revert to an old style keyboard on WP7
  • Turned Swype off on my G2. Know why? Try typing '8:30' by pressing and holding the letter key to get the 8 to pop up. After you hit '8' and you enter in a colon it autocorrects 8 to 8th and inserts a space so you have to go back and delete all the extra **** it added. Inputting text is unbelievably fast but editing the idiotic autocorrect takes too much time. Stock android keyboard for me.What I miss most about the wp7/ios keyboards is tapping and holding on the alternative keyboard button, dragging to the desired punctuation mark or letter, lifting up my finger and having it inserted and the keyboard reverting back to the lettered face. Its the little things.
  • I turned my Android (HTC Legend, cheap piece of c***) in for a Windows Phone because the touchscreen of the Android was SO bad, and it lagged, freezed, etcetera. I am someone who strives for perfectness, and I must say that the input method on WP7 is the best I ever had!
  • You can start by learning that 'perfectness' isn't a word but 'perfection' is.
  • I am tired to read everywhere in the press that this WP7 keyboard is fantastic.I am not thrill by it at all. Just be realistic:1° It doesn't even support multilanguage (you have to switch yourself between 2 languages whch is ridiculous). Swype supports multilanguage.2° regarding figures: You have to switch to a different layout to type numbers. What a waste of precious time. It's silly.To me this is not a modern and intuitive keyboard.
  • The TouchPal Keyboard by CooTek - for WM was MUCH better than any on-screen keyboard I ever have used. I too am a hardware keyboard guy. Here's to hoping that Dell get their act together on the V-Pro in its next iteration and that AT&T bring it on...as I prefer that portrait layout to horizontal keyboards...
  • I think that actual typing on WP7 is better than most. However, Swift Key on Android is amazing. Not just for its word completion, but in its ability to predict your next word. Any keyboard that cuts your actual typing down to a fraction has to be considered superior.Dave
  • I found swift to be horrendously slow. Also the fact that you have to 'learn' to use the swift board is just wrong. Also when I did use it both early then after they got very successful on my Desire the dictionary was terrible. I prefer the WP7 over any keyboard and I don't mind either way tapping a the number or emot key for alt characters.
  • One thing I do like about the WP7 keyboard is that when you hit the "@" symbol, the keyboard automatically changes back to the letters.
  • The behavior of WP7 altering the (non-visual) hit target size sounds like what the iPhone has been doing all along. See http://reviews.cnet.com/8301-19512_7-10114943-233.html from June 2007.From the above:“In addition to analyzing a word that was entered and suggesting a correction (e.g. “ouzza” yields a suggested “pizza”), the iPhone has a feature that will dynamically resize the “hot zone” for a key that you are likely to press next. For instance, if you are typing the word “time” and enter “tim,” the iPhone keyboard will automatically increase the hot zone size for the “e” key, since that is the most common letter to press next.”That said, I'd say WP7's keyboard is on par w/that of iOS. It's FAR better than my T-Mobile myTouch (Android phone) when it was stuck on Android 1.6 for the longest time. Once it finally got the Android 2.2.1 update, the keyboard behavior and accuracy seemed a lot better (but still worse than WP7 and iPhone).
  • I still think the wp7 keyboard does it way better then the iphone. I used the wp7 for a week trying it out from a friend, and my fiancee has the iphone4 and I am constantly miss typing things on it. But I guess to each their own.
  • I came from the iOS world and have to jump back over and type on an iPod or my wife's iPhone. I have been using my Focus since it launched and, at least according to my fingers, the on-screen keyboard sucks. I am uncertain if it is the Focus or the OS. For one, the Focus is ultra-sensitive. It detects my fingers before I even touch the screen, so I am sure that accounts for a lot of my errors. I am unable to reliably type a clear message. 99% of the time, I have to rely on those hint words. After being away from iOS for 3 months I went back and was able to type w/out a single error. I'm waiting to see if any updates fix this.